The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

December 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Movies

So here we go again. Or do we? Well, Katniss and Peeta are heroes and are back in their District, living in better conditions but the District is still impoverished. The rest of the Districts don’t know that they believe Katiss and Peeta are really in love; but most importantly, President Snow (reprised by Donald Sutherland) doesn’t believe it. He knows they faked it to win, and got one over on him. He can’t handle it, so he tries to play a game of his own, to try and out them publicly while the new Gamesmaker, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) comes up with a way to get Katniss to expose herself as a fraud and stifle some sparks of a new Revolution.

Katniss is still in love with her longtime friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), but does have some feelings for Peeta. They’re just not strong enough to be considered “true love”. As she and Peeta go on tour through the Districts, they’re given scripts to read to each one; and are basically paraded around to show that the Hunger Games were worth all the death, I guess. I still can’t really figure out the purpose of what the “Hunger Games” is about. I mean, the overall message to the audience. But by now, I don’t think it matters that much. This movie, once it gets going, really is more about the action and adventure…and love. It’s  not really about having a message.

And, like the first one, that’s all fine well and good. Meaning, I still enjoyed it. I think Jennifer Lawrence is even stronger in this film, showing a more emotionally fragile Katniss who has to be stronger than she was in the first Hunger Games. Hutcherson is still likable as Peeta, and we’re introduced to some new characters too: Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), and Mags (Lynn Cohen), who cannot speak. Her partner in her district is Finnick, who seems cocky and arrogant but does have a soft heart underneath. Beetee and Wiress are sort of nerds who are more tech savvy. And then there’s Johanna (brutally played by Jena Malone) who…really isn’t necessary at all. All of these characters were former winners of Hunger Games as well. Because of the plan to stifle talks of a new Revolution, Snow believes it’s time to make a distraction with a new Hunger Games. So it’s kind of like, Hunger Games: All Stars. Mark Burnett would be so proud. Oh, Woody Harrelson is back as well as Haymitch. Only he’s even less useful in this…but he still is always drinking. Have to love that. What else is there to do in a dystopian future?

The Hunger Games begin again and it becomes very familiar territory…although I did like the poison fog. It’s quite disgusting what happens to your skin if it engulfs you. But just when it starts getting too familiar, the game is changed. Literally. And what it sets up is a delicious looking conclusion…which we’ll have to experience in two parts, like “Harry Potter”.

Overall, this is a good continuation of the story. I don’t know that I’d call it a true sequel because it’s just another part of a clothesline story that’s inevitably going to conclude itself in the fourth film. It’s like calling “The Two Towers” a sequel. Just doesn’t sound right. Hey maybe if “The Lord of the Rings” was made now, there would be a “Return of the King Part 1” and “Part 2” as well. Can you imagine how long that would be? Probably as long as it was anyway…

“Catching Fire” is fun, and now that we’ve gotten it out of the way that it’s not anything more than that…I suppose it’s time to start just enjoying it.

My rating: :-)

Surrogates

September 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

The premise of this film is nothing we haven’t seen before. I was immediately reminded of a lot of different films, such as “Blade Runner”, “Strange Days”, “Total Recall”, and even “The Terminator”. The idea revolves around our own feeling that we need to create a perfect self, since we are so full of flaws. Of course, this is primarily driven by aesthetics. Our imperfections on our body, and nothing else, has driven this human race to go through incredible lengths to make ourselves look better. In this case, you can do so by creating a “puppet” of yourself, and hook yourself up remotely to this “double” of yours. They’re known as “surrogates”, and almost 90% of them look like they were spawned from the Bret Easton Ellis universe. You can live out your wildest fantasies with these things, and if they die? No worries. You aren’t affected. You can just buy another one.

Until one night, an operator is killed along with his surrogate. And the operator just happens to be the son of the creator and former CEO of the company that makes them. The FBI is brought in, and the main team on the case includes Agent Greer (played by Bruce Willis); of course a covert plot is uncovered, and just about everything you can imagine from a garden variety action thriller ensues.

The film begins almost like “District 9” does, with a series of “explanatory” scenes that bring us up to date on the technology and progression of the “Surrogate” project; but that would be the only similarity I’d draw between the two. Where “District 9” blatantly has a purpose and an agenda, “Surrogates” plays around and dances around a lot of interesting themes and doesn’t delve into any of them. Instead the film just delivers a tired plot and an underdeveloped theme of losing your identity and self through these robots.

There is a collection of humans, known as Dreads, that have “reservations” as it were, where no surrogates are allowed. Their leader is The Prophet–and would you guess that he’s got dreadlocks? I mean, that is pretty much a guaranteed symbol of enlightenment and power. But there’s a twist with The Prophet–one you can see coming a mile away if you’re paying attention in the least. But again, these scenes with the Dreads are very trite and predictable, and nothing really interesting happens with them.

There could have been a lot to this movie. I’m guessing the graphic novel series it’s based on digs more into the themes of human insecurity and our thirst for beauty and youth. The film only runs at 90 minutes, so there wasn’t a lot of room for these different ideas to grow. But then why make the film? Why did we need another action film with a flimsy who-dun-it story and a pathetic excuse for a car chase climax?

And while I’m on a roll, why does every single IT/Computer hacker have to resemble Harry Knowles? Seriously. Have some imagination!

While the film is an utter disappointment for what it could have been, it does deliver in some respects. If you were missing Bruce Willis with hair, for one, you get to see that. Also, there are some interesting scenes between him and his wife, about their deceased son. But overall, the movie takes itself too seriously and it doesn’t develop itself enough to really care about these characters, nor does it give you any sense of discovery about human worth and whatnot.

But what did you expect from the screenwriters of “Terminator Salvation” and “The Game”? I hope not much.

My rating: :?

W.

October 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Movies

Ah, the movie event of the year! Well, sort of…Oliver Stone was originally going to do a film about the My Lai massacre, and it got scrapped. So, what is a 60+ year old conspiracy theorist director to do?

Why, make a movie about the current president of the United States, of course! And when you see Oliver Stone attached to something about a Republican president, all the right can do is roll their eyes, and the left licks their chops.

But, hold on a moment. Before jumping to a conclusion, let’s give Stone a chance. I mean, he had said before the movie was released that this was going to be more like “The Queen”; in that, Bush would be looked at from a personal standpoint, and not just the character assassination that Nixon got. Did he pull it off?

First, he can’t get over how much success his dad has had, and how much his dad admires his brother, Jeb. Second, he’s a booze hound who is more interested in partying and getting drunk than doing anything with his life. He is the essence of a spoiled brat. And his father resents that because he believes that the Bush name is about working hard for everything, and not being entitled to everything. “What do you think you are, a Kennedy?” he asks junior.

But, George has a change of lifestyle when he meets Laura Welch, played wonderfully by Elizabeth Banks, and eventually gives up drinking and takes up politics. Laura is great. She, too, was a drinker and a smoker–and a Democrat! Very open minded, she becomes a great supporter of her man, and is represented as a loving, fair minded individual, and very strong willed.

As George gets deeper into politics, he helps his father’s campaigns in ‘88 and ‘92, and decides to run for Governor of Texas in ‘93. To everyone’s surprise, he wins, and becomes Governor in ‘94. From then on, Bush enjoys some successes, and eventually of course wins (steals?) the 2000 Presidential election.

What’s interesting is that the movie does jump around a little in Bush’s life. We do see him in office in the early part of the film, and we get to see him with his conniving advisers, including Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. The performances of all three of these guys are very good–with Dreyfuss being absolutely dead on as Cheney. He’s got the smug little smirk down perfect.

In fact, most everyone’s performances were very believable–the only one I disliked was Condy Rice. I don’t know if they were going for comic effect or just trying to make her as annoying as possible, but I’ve heard her speak…she’s not THIS bad. Distracted from the movie, and is the one pock mark on an otherwise pretty strong effort. Brolin shines as W., and deserves Oscar recognition.

The story itself revolves around Bush’s inability to really analyze anything and that does come back to haunt him in the Iraq invasion, and the film ends on the note that the Iraq war starts going downhill, and his popularity starts to dwindle. There’s an interesting running theme of Bush’s love of baseball being manifested in a recurring daydream he professes to his father in which he’s in center field, catching a fly ball. It’s his “happy place”, and he can always go there when things aren’t going well. For Bush, this happens often.

Stone’s take on Bush is a success, and deserves to be looked at fairly since his take on Bush is presented justly. You actually do kinda like W. by the end, and feel a bit sorry for him because he just can’t seem to get things right. In so many things in his life, he never tries to really do the right thing. In the case of Iraq, he really believed he was doing the right thing, and believed the wrong people. He’ll most likely go down in history as the worst president in our history.

But at least we’ll have this film to look at and say: but he wasn’t THAT bad of a guy…

My rating: :smile: